Associate professor of education Erin DeHart has recently completed doctoral studies at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln. Her course of study focused on teaching, learning and curriculum development. For her dissertation, DeHart looked at teaching multiculturalism, an issue that is close to her heart.
“Teaching about the minority perspective can be difficult, especially when teaching students of the majority perspective,” she says. DeHart teaches a class on human relations and multicultural awareness at YC. “That class creates a lot of cognitive dissonance for learners because it challenges their perceptions.”
This research area is tied directly to DeHart’s Christian faith. “When I think about who Jesus came for, who he spent time with, they were not people of power or influence. They were outcasts. It’s important to me to consider everyone in a community, because Jesus came for everyone. That’s why I teach that it is vital to be kind and compassionate to all people.”
The research for her dissertation began with a self-study that had DeHart dissect her own teaching methodology. The process has changed the way she teaches.
DeHart’s dissertation examined teaching through inquiry that leads to transformation. This is a more challenging way to teach and learn than basic transmission of information, she says. As such, the multicultural class she teaches isn’t about acquiring facts. Instead, it challenges students to ask questions then synthesize multiple view points. “I don’t tell students what to think or believe. I give them information and expect them to do the cognitive work to develop their own answers,” says DeHart.
As recent headlines about race tensions in Missouri can attest, DeHart’s research is timely and relevant.
“It’s important for people who will be teachers to recognize their own identity and how that impacts their outlook,” says DeHart. “It’s hard work to break down stereotypes and prejudice acquired naturally over many years.”
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